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Minh Nguyen

ACT Science: What to Do When You’re Running Out of Time

Despite your best effort and preparation on the ACT, you may run into a few roadblocks and hiccups along the way when you take the test for real – especially on the ACT science section.

As the fourth section of the ACT, it’s basically an all-out sprint to the finish. There are so many questions with so little time to finish them, and this is about the time during the test when you are mentally and physically exhausted.

Here’s a list of things to do when you look up at the clock and notice that you only have a few minutes left but still a long way to go.

ACT Clock - Magoosh

  1. Do all of the Data Representation sections remaining. Of the three types of problem sets on the ACT science, Data Representation is typically the easiest.

    If there aren’t any of those remaining, then move on to the Research Summaries section. The Conflicting Viewpoints section is probably best to be avoided if you haven’t done it yet, as it is usually the most involved when it comes to reading the passage and analyzing the answer choices.

  2. If you don’t have enough time to do all of the Data Representation sections left, just do the easiest questions from each of those sections. Look for the questions that ask you to analyze basic chart trends. Those should be pretty straightforward and burn the least amount of precious test time remaining.
  3. Remember to wrap it up by bubbling in all of the remaining questions as quickly as possible. Save this until the very end – maybe the last 15-30 seconds or so, depending on how many blanks you need to bubble in.

    Since you have a low probability of getting them right anyway. Make sure to make the marks dark enough for the machine to pick it up when grading your test.



Running out of time is not an ideal situation, but it’s doesn’t have to spell doom and gloom for your ACT score. If you practice a contingency plan beforehand, you will be calm and know exactly what to do to maximize your score if an adverse situation does happen during the real test.

This could possibly be the difference between a great ACT score and a mediocre one, so it is very important to take this part of your test preparation seriously.

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About Minh Nguyen

Minh's passion for helping students succeed grew during his time as a career counselor at the University of California, Irvine. Now, he's helping students all over the world by spilling SAT/ACT secrets through blog posts on Magoosh. When he's not busy tutoring or writing, he enjoys playing guitar, traveling, and talking about himself in third-person.

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